Kinako-Tofu Rare Cheesecake

Tofu cheesecake literally takes me back to high school. I still remember taking Japanese 3, we would have these cooking projects, and one of them was making Japanese desserts. One of those desserts was tofu rare cheesecake. The crust was made with these digestive biscuits, while the cheesecake filling was made with cream cheese/yogurt, and and gelatin. It was a no-bake cheesecake that was really simple to prepare, and that was the charm of it! For this recipe, I wanted to do that rare cheesecake once more, but pairing it with a couple of flavors and ingredients that I have learned about since junior year of high school, just to show the growth I have experienced as a pastry cook since then. I really wanted to highlight soy as well as roasted notes, so I opted for kinako, which is a toasted soybean flour, and blonde chocolate, which is slow-roasted white chocolate, to accent the cheesecake with. The kinako echoes the soy notes in the tofu, but also bringing in a nuttiness that is addictive with sugar. The blonde chocolate plays off of the kinako well, bringing in similar roasted and toasty flavors, while also incorporating caramel-like notes! Since kinako is usually served with mochi, I went that route as well, and made mochi which is used to garnish the top of the cheesecake with.

With this recipe, there is one major risk with using tofu – it contains a lot of moisture, and depending on how you handle that, you can end up with a lot of liquid leeching out of the tofu and making everything deflated and soggy. I found that the best way around that is pressing the tofu with paper towels to soak up as much excess moisture as possible. I am using soft silken tofu for this recipe, which has a soft, custardy texture. Tofu that is silken is completely unpressed and undrained, resulting in a very velvety consistency, although full of water. Even firmer silken tofu is softer than regular tofu as a result of the high moisture content. I prefer going with firm silken tofu, despite it having a bit more of a savory flavor, just because there being less moisture removes any risk of you having a soggy crust. By blending it and setting it with cream cheese and gelatin, you get this super delicate cheesecake filling, and the citrus juice and sugar really do take away any of the savory notes. With the crust, I am enrobing crackers with brown butter, kinako, and melted blonde chocolate, to give it an intense buttery flavor that just pairs beautifully with the tofu. What I love about this recipe is that it really does take me back to simpler times when I was baking for fun in high school, and learning how to do simple Japanese desserts like this one.

For the kinako crust:
2oz blonde chocolate
a pinch of salt
4oz crackers
1/4 cup kinako powder
2 tbsp melted butter, preferably browned

In a double boiler, melt down the blonde chocolate with salt. Blend down the crackers into a fine powder. Mix everything together to form your crust.

For the filling:
12oz silken firm tofu
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp gelatin powder + 2 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp lemon or yuzu juice
a pinch of salt
12oz cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract

Remove the tofu from the packet and wrap in a paper towel to remove as much moisture as you can from it. In a pot, heat up the sugar, milk, gelatin, lemon/yuzu juice, and salt until dissolved together. Pour over the cream cheese and tofu and begin to stir together. Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree with the other ingredients until fully smooth.

For initial assembly:
Divide the crust between 2 6-inch ring molds, pressing it down into a flat layer. Divide the cheesecake filling between the two molds as well. Freeze for at least 4 hours before attempting to unmold them.

For the mochi bits:
1/4 cup mochiko
2 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1/3 cup water
corn or potato starch
kinako powder

In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together mochiko, sugar, salt, and water. Cover the bowl with cling wrap, poking holes into the wrap with a fork, and microwave for 2 minutes. Pour the mochi out onto a nonstick surface lined with corn or potato starch and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Dust with kinako powder to finish. Store in an airtight container until time to assemble.

For final assembly:
Top the cheesecakes with the mochi bits.

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